It came as no surprise to anyone involved when the minor league baseball season was canceled on Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These are unprecedented times for our country and our organization as this is the first time in our history we’ve had a summer without minor league baseball played,” MiLB President Pat O’Conner said in a statement. “While this is a sad day for many, this announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”
The Appalachian League was supposed to have started June 22, but its season was suspended earlier this month. Word came out late Monday that the season was canceled and the news became official Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re disappointed, but it is what it is,” Boyd Sports President Chris Allen said. “It’s probably the smart and safe thing to do.”
Allen’s company runs the Appy League’s Johnson City Cardinals, Elizabethton Twins and Greeneville Reds as well as the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League.
The local teams were reluctant to comment on the news Tuesday. Kingsport Mets general manager Brian Paupeck and Johnson City Cardinals GM Zac Clark declined interview requests.
The cancellation could be a double whammy for the Appalachian League, whose future is in doubt as Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues — better known as Minor League Baseball — continue to negotiate a new deal. Their current contract expires after this year and reports on the negotiations indicate there won’t be an Appy League as we know it under the new agreement.
“Nothing’s come out on that yet as far as anything definite, but we’re concerned about that, no doubt,” Allen said. “We believe we’ll have baseball in the Tri-Cities area in some shape or form.
“Maybe there will be some sort of reprieve to buy some more time to work it out because of this season. I’m not real hopeful, but you never know.”
If MLB does indeed eliminate the current setup of the Appy League, a proposed summer college league could take its place. Such leagues, featuring players with college eligibility remaining using wood bats, are operated all over the country.
“I’m confident we’ll be involved in baseball in Greeneville, Johnson City and Elizabethton in some shape or form,” Allen said. “We’re not giving up on pro baseball. But if that’s out of our hands and it’s not something we can do, we will shift gears and put forth the same effort.”